In 2015, the UN world conference of disaster risk reduction convened to discuss the reconstruction of communities after disasters, contemplating the lessons learnt from previous disasters and subsequent rebuilding experiences. The brief established that simply rebuilding communities to pre disaster standards will recreate the vulnerabilities that existed pre disaster, and expose them to continuing devastation from future disasters.
‘Recovery’ therefore, is defined as a ‘the restoration and improvement of facilities, livelihoods and living conditions of disaster-affected communities, including efforts to reduce disaster risk factors’. What that looks like in practice is at the heart of our REPLACE project.
The 2023 earthquakes in Turkey and Syria highlighted how important it is to have quake-resistant building practises in earthquake prone regions. As a result, questions are being asked by academics and policy makers about how preparedness can be placed at the centre of the rebuilding effort in disaster-hit communities, and how places at risk of disaster can ensure their spaces and places are safe and protected to the best of their abilities.
The hazard management cycle demonstrates that the main time phases of a disaster response are identified as how to respond to, recover from, prepare for, and mitigate the social effects of natural disasters, and this is the framework we will be using when engaging with our case study areas in the replace project to map community reaction, response and rebuilding.
When rebuilding after a disaster, it is important for reconstruction efforts to properly interrogate the sense of place for communities affected, and ensure the proper emphasis is placed on meaningful spaces and their reconstruction. By figuring out which spaces a community values, there can begin to be a shape to how reconstruction could and should look to the people that live there, as opposed to top-down interventional rebuilding.
These spaces often speak to the heritage of communities, and they might not be apparent at a first glance. By working with people and the places that they live in, we can begin to understand the emphasis on civic and private buildings and spaces, and ask questions like; “should a town hall that is mainly used for civic government take precedent in the rebuilding over popular community kitchen space that is well used by community?”
By rebuilding and reshaping communities affected by disasters in memory, REPLACE can help these communities affect their rebuilding in practice, and develop rules and guidance for rebuilding policies.
REPLACE will be working with communities to develop ways to understand the meaning of place to communities after disasters have occurred, and look at the ways these change and stay the same across different case studies, at different stages In the hazard management cycle, so that the communities and authorities can better prepare and protect these communities in the future.
Assistant Lecturer, University of Essex
Louise Rodwell is an assistant lecturer and postgraduate research student in the Department of History as well as a project officer in the School of Philosophy and Art History. Her research interests include World War I and its visual and cultural legacy, memory studies and remembrance, and the Spanish flu.